Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Fake Issues

Photo Description: a person, whose face cannot be seen, is wearing a white tee shirt with the words: WHY BE RACIST, SEXIST, HOMOPHOBIC OR TRANSPHOBIC WHEN YOU COULD JUST BE QUIET?

I am writing this post feeling cautious and I think that I'd like to begin to ask you to read it with caution as well. Please understand that I am not attacking and I do not wish to attack the teenager who made and wore the tee shirt in the picture. Further I think the kid who did this has his heart in the right place and, further, has the courage of his convictions and I think that's extraordinary. Even so I want to use the sentiment stated on the tee shirt to talk about a much larger issue.

Spending a little time reading the comments on this young man and the shirt he wore was really instructive. It again showed the incredible divide between those who decry 'political correctness' and those who felt that the young man had a real point to make. Some saw it as an attack on free speech and others saw it as advancing a more compassionate world. This is to be expected. In total I read over 300 comments about this shirt, its creator and the sentiment expressed. Not once did anyone say 'Hey, great shirt but maybe ableism or disphobia should have made the list. After all, the mocking of a disabled reporter and the recent beating on a man with an intellectual disability has been in the press a lot recently. But it didn't make a difference. When I posted a couple of comments regarding the oppression of people with disabilities, the replies to my comment included someone who said that the including "fake issues" would "water down the effect of the statement." Fake issues? Water down?

The constant erasure of the oppression faced by people with disabilities from public discourse is one of the most worrying aspects of  being involved in the fight for disability rights and the battle for full inclusion. The shirt is great, good for him, but the fact that no one sees an obvious omission is so disheartening. That people with disabilities face discrimination and violence and exclusion is well documented. That people with disabilities have a history of being erased which includes forced removal from public streets and public schools and public access by being thrown, against their will, into institutions where abuse reigned supreme, all done with the permission of those in society who had control and those in society who didn't wish us to live in our home neighbourhoods, is evidence enough of our status as outsider, and the degree to which we need to be on guard, our freedom is considered a gift not a right.

I recently looked at hate crime statistics regarding people with disabilities and found that, where that information is collected because we are included, it's going up. Pretty much everywhere. And there is no alarm, there is no warning bells going off, because people seem to refuse to admit or are wary of admitting that we face prejudice and violence and exclusion.

Watching the news here in Canada about Meryl Streep's speech at the Golden Globes caused me so much distress. On every news station where it was reported, with the exception of one, the clip of her speech began with 'violence begets violence...' and the context of where that statement came, the mocking of a disabled reporter, was clipped out. It wasn't seen as important that viewers saw the 'why' behind the statement. This was done in showing a speech where the press were called to a higher standard of reporting. Is that irony? I don't know I don't really understand what irony means. What I do know is that the wilful erasure of "disability" from minority status, from statements about oppression, from the mainstream media is concerning.

They took us out of society.

They welcomed us back reluctantly.

Now, they simply speak and act and live, like we don't exist.

The ultimate act of violence.

7 comments:

CapriUni said...

One of my favorite contributions during the latest Blogging Against Disablism Day (May 1, 2016), was an article about just this issue, and it deserves to be more widely read, so I'll put a link to it, here, if you don't mind: There is Ableism Somewhere at the Heart of your Oppression, no Matter What Your Oppression Might Be, by Mel Baggs.

A few days later, I was inspired by Mel Baggs essay to make this info-graphic (an image description is at the link). You (and anyone else reading this) are free to use that image if you think it will be helpful in discussing the reality and importance of Ableism.

BTW, that "Disabled Reporter" has a name, and I intend to keep using it every time I talk about this incident, while at the same time refraining from using the President-Elect's name in this context, because the latter just loves to have his name slathered on everything, and I feel the need to balance the scales of justice, a little bit.

The reporter's name is Serge F. Kavoleski (link goes to his professional C.V. at the New York Times), and he is a Pulitzer-Prize winning journalist (so Meryl Streep's assertion that he has a reduced capacity to fight back is particularly galling). And the Republican Candidate (at the time) singled him out for mockery in the first place because Mr. Kavoleski pointed out the lie the candidate was repeating about "thousands of Muslims celebrating" on 9/11.

We in the Disabled Community are doing ourselves no favors whenever we continue to refer to Mr. Kavoleski as "that disabled reporter."

Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt said...

The above link to the infographic goes to 'Page not found.' I'd like to see it.

Trump didn't like what the reporter was SAYING, so he looked for some way to marginalize the PERSON. There is never any thought between the perception and the attack in that man.

tragicsandwich said...

I agree that these forms of bigotry should be included, but which should be left out? For the shirt to be effective, it also needs to be legible. One approach might be to have the shirt say "Why be bigoted . . . ?" Another might be to print more shirts with a variety of slogans.

But beyond that, people being silent doesn't solve the real problem. It doesn't change their views, it just hides them.

Unknown said...

and here I was thinking that it was progress that Meryl Streep chose that example of just how despicable the behaviors of the President-elect have been and will continue to be....clearly I am not as aware as you are, Dave...but I'm learning....and trying.....
clairesmum

Andrea Shettle, MSW said...

Capri Uni, your link to the info graphic seems to be broken? Can you please fix or provide the corrected link? Thanks!

And thank you for naming Serge F Kavoleski.

It upsets me that some people actually believe that ableism, which has driven so much violence and other forms of discrimination against disabled people, is somehow a "fake" issue. It upsets me that even people who remember to talk about other forms of "isms" still erase ableism. It upsets me that we are still so actively invisibilized in society.

CapriUni said...

Sorry about the broken link, gang!

Try this: https://www.flickr.com/photos/capriuni/31869841180/

mary said...

I don't know how they could have cut the attack on the disabled reported out. It was the centerpiece of her speech. Here in the US it was shown on every network I watched. I agree with your point.